1st XV vs Jed-Forest: Match Report
In a high intensity, drama filled afternoon, Stewart’s Melville kept their unbeaten start to the season intact in a close match at Jedburgh, where the lead changed hands nine times. In years to come, the Stew Mel participants will meet at Rugby Dinners or Lunches, shake hands and say ‘remember that day we went down to Jed and beat them’ – because, make no mistake, this was a good Jed-Forest side, and a great result for us.
Jed-Forest came out of the blocks pumped up, and it was obvious from the start that we would have to match them for intensity otherwise we were in for a long afternoon. The quality of the match befitted the respective positions of first and second in Premier 2. Where, in previous matches this season, we have been guilty of squandering chances and losing turnover ball, here, in the main, we took our chances, while our collective physicality at the break down ensured ball was secured.
Jed kicked off playing towards the ‘toon’ in front of a large and vocal home crowd in bright autumnal sunshine – the Borders at its glorious best! The crowd was boosted by a not inconsiderable following for the league leaders, although, in all honesty, most had travelled from the capital more in hope than expectation, in recognition of our injury list.
Early penalties from Laidlaw and Trotter were exchanged in a ‘tit for tat’ fashion. Then, midway through the half, and rather against the run of play, Hare and Hanning engineered an overlap for Hughes to stretch his legs. First of all he rounded his opposite man, then took on the full back on his outside shoulder to touch down in the bottom roadside corner. Seb struck the conversion perfectly to give us a seven point cushion.
O’Leary then had a great chance to stretch our lead when he peeled from a moving rolling maul five yards out, but a Jed defender managed to get his hand on the ball. With a little more control and support, this move would surely have yielded us five points.
The lead was short lived, however, as Jed, after a series of ‘pick and goes’, equalised through Grieve’s try, which was converted by Laidlaw – youngest son of you-know-who. We had picked up the pace of the game well, but the yellow card issued to Sangster forced us to defend around half time.
Half time arrived, and it was now anybody’s game. An injury to Andrew Hughes’s shoulder forced him to retire, with Adam Broatch his replacement.
Laidlaw kicked Jed into the lead after the break, but a yellow to their flanker Grieve gave us a numerical advantage. We were able to use this advantage and build the phases, with nobody looking for Riggers’ ‘million dollar offload’, until Hanning squeezed in at the corner and we regained the lead. Seb’s unsuccessful conversion was to be his last involvement as he retired shortly after with an ankle injury. The subsequent re-jigging meant Matt Hannay went to full back, Mike Hanning to stand-off, Phil Hendry to wing, Mark Wilson to back-row and Fraser Morrison to lock. Meanwhile Laidlaw popped over a penalty for Jed to retake the lead 19-18.
The front row subs were introduced as the game approached its climax and we were awarded a penalty. Scott scratched his head looking for a kicker and up stepped Mike Hanning to bisect the uprights from far out on the left and restore our advantage at 19-21.
Annoyingly, Laidlaw replied, and it was 22-21 going into the last five minutes. Hanning could not repeat his earlier success when we were awarded a similar penalty, but, by this time, the forwards had taken matters into their own hands and Willie stormed over from close range at the stand side to edge us ahead on the stroke of full time.
There was still four minutes of injury time to endure and, in the last act, a 5 metre penalty to defend. The referee ruled Jed obstruction in the ensuing line-out, and it was all over.
Inevitably, in such a hard fought match, there are going to be moments of referring controversy, where a penalty one way or another could seriously affect the eventual outcome. Players and spectators should remember that the interpretation of the laws for the benefit of the spectacle at the RW Cup is different from the laws under which we play.
We should also all remember that, without the officials, there is no game, and that a referee is only human and never more right than when he is wrong.